CMO View: On the Challenge to Find the Single Source of Truth Opinion

By Will McInnes on November 3rd 2015

A theme I hear consistently from our clients running social analytics teams (often as part of wider consumer insights or research functions) is summed up in the phrase ‘single source of truth’.

What I’ve heard is that in very large enterprises, a major challenge is decision makers being fed conflicting information due to differences in methodology, platform, data source, and so on.

I even see it in my own work as a CMO.

On a bad day we will lose time and gain frustration because my team will see and report a different number to my sales counterparts, and different again to our mutual colleagues in, say, operations or finance.

This is really not good.


Consistency, consistency, consistency

If decision makers are not receiving consistent data to support their decisions, then risk is introduced.

That risk could be minor or major.

If teams are seeing and operating on different pictures of the same reality, it will be much harder to achieve the extra punch that comes with a shared, unified view.

That means wasted time and effort, missed opportunities, and lower morale in the long run.

So what our clients find themselves doing is introducing their chosen platforms, methodologies and data sources as the ‘single source of truth’.

How do they do this?

Let’s look at three stages:

  • Evangelism
  • Standardization
  • Trust.

1. Evangelism

Firstly, these clients don’t sit around complaining about the situation.

They hit the corridors and start getting around the business.

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Building on a few early successes and internal wins, they find sources of conflicting data and approach and explain what their function offers and why.

What I have heard is that at first this is a ‘push’ that requires proactivity and (in the next step) persuasion.

It is typically face to face, and won one team or exec at a time.


2. Standardization

Typically clients tell me there are two sources of non-standard approaches – internal teams and external agencies.

In the worst case with internal teams we see clients using multiple different social analytics platforms in different teams, using different metrics and methodologies to calculate them, and the result is a disconnected, inconsistent mess.
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It requires political nous and/or clout to get this all standardized, but we have seen many clients succeed here. It takes time.

With agencies the case is usually more compelling, harder to refute and so quicker to solve.

As one of our clients from a major US bank described it, they’re marking their own homework.

Here, the pitch is that the internal center of excellence will referee and will give execs, marketers and whoever else the independently produced results that they need.

As an alternative (but not one I’ve yet seen) I can imagine that a brand could implement very clear guidelines, platform specifications and processes for trusted agency partners to follow.

That would make sense too.


3. Trust

We’re now in a very different world.

At this point there are multiple satisfied internal clients who are receiving insights from their single source of truth.

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And what our clients seem to see is a shift from ‘pushing’ their service internally to responding to a sometimes-overwhelming ‘pull’.

Requests begin to emerge from across the organization, some unexpected, because the service is trusted.

Congratulations. You are now the single source of truth!



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